The Genius of Dashiell Hammett

"'Plans are all right sometimes,' I said, 'and sometimes just stirring things up is all right - if you're tough enough to survive, and keep your eyes open so you'll see what you want when it comes to the top." -- Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest

This was where Hammett broke with all previous detective fiction, at least what I know of it. C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey: they all carefully planned how they were to catch their criminals, proceeding according to rational schemes. Hammett's detectives had no such rational design to their actions: they merely agitated the situation and toughed it out until the truth became manifest. As such, they were pre-cursors of post-modernism.


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